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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Russia Hail End of Tests On Supersonic Tu-144LL Jet




U.S. and Russian aerospace experts Wednesday hailed the successful completion of tests on Russia's Tu-144LL "Konkordsky" airplane, considered the future of supersonic air travel.


The project, a part of U.S. space agency NASA's High Speed Research program, used the aircraft to conduct experiments on temperature, pressure, heat, cabin noise and other aerodynamic characteristics.


Richard Christiansen, aeronautics administrator for NASA, said results of tests conducted over the past 18 months were "outstanding."


"These results will guide us in future work on the aircraft," Christiansen said. "They also provide a foundation for future cooperation between Russia and the United States in aerospace."


Officials declined to disclose the program's cost or the fee paid to Tupolev for the tests. U.S. companies participating in the project include Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell and General Electric.


The parties acknowledged, however, that the next generation supersonic aviation is still a distant dream.


"The aircraft must meet three fundamental conditions," said Robert Spitzer, Boeing's vice president of engineering. "It has to be environmentally and technically satisfactory as well as economically acceptable."


Officials said there are no plans at present to move forward with developing the Konkordsky as a commercial jet.


Alexander Pukhov, Tupolev's chief designer, said testing the aircraft "was a hellish four-year job which was completed with excellent results," Reuters reported.


Pukhov said the Tupolev Tu-144LL jet made a total of 19 test flights, starting in November 1997, from the secretive Zhukovsky air base near Moscow, and spent about 39 hours in flight, including eight hoursand 40 minutes at supersonic speeds, the news agency reported.


The Tu-144LL was inaugurated in 1968 as Russia's answer to the British-French supersonic Concorde. But the aircraft ran into trouble after a crash at the Paris air show in 1973.


The jet used in the experiments is a modified version of the earlier plane.


Officials said the new generation supersonic aircraft would likely be an international project involving Russian companies.


"There are no decisions on who will actually make the plane," Christiansen said. "No doors have been closed for international cooperation in this field."


One Tupolev official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the company lacked the funds to continue cooperating on a supersonic jet.


"We will try to find money, because this cooperation is very important for us," he said.